Observations from today’s readings and today’s S-WOD, Thursday, 15 Mar 18:
1. Numbers 29 – A whole month dedicated to worshipping the Lord. Can you imagine? Four times in this chapter, God says, “You shall not do any work.” How incredibly unproductive in the world’s view of economy. Today, we don’t take this much time to worship corporately (perhaps we should), but certainly, just taking one day of rest each week seems to most unreasonable. Don’t we have too much to do? And is it really reasonable to give dedicated time each day to pray and to study God’s word? Does it make practical sense to tithe? Time and money are our most precious commodities. Dedicating both to the Lord is an act of faith, and it is a personal and public statement that reminds us that our provision, security, and success depend on the Lord, not our efforts. It is an act of trust. God had his people do this every year because, though we have belief, we also have unbelief and need to be reminded.
2. Numbers 29:12 – “….you shall keep a feast to the Lord seven days.” During the Feast of Booths, all the Israelites essentially camped out for a whole week, with each day being dedicated to worship. In Israel, they would all, the entire nation, leave their homes and live in huts. In the cities they even had to put these huts, booths, on their rooftops. Can you imagine? Each year this was a reminder to the people of God’s provision and salvation in the desert; it reminded the people that even if they lost everything, God would still be there for them and see them through; it brought all the people together for a week of fellowship, away from work and distractions; it taught them that their joy did not depend on the comforts of life; and practically, it keep them proficient at camping, in the event they were ever required to live on the land again. It has been said that nothing brings a family together quite like camping. Perhaps, Christians should revive the Feast of Booths. What if your entire church spent a week each year camping together, seven days away from distractions in worship and fellowship?
3. Numbers 30:1, 2 — “Moses spoke to the heads of the tribes of the people of Israel, saying, ‘This is what the Lord has commanded. If a man vows a vow to the Lord, or swears an oath to bind himself by a pledge, he shall not break his word. He shall do according to all that proceeds out of his mouth.'” God takes your promises to Him very seriously.
4. Numbers 30:5 — “But if her father opposes her on the day that he hears of it, no vow of hers, no pledge by which she has bound herself shall stand. And the Lord will forgive her, because her father opposed her.” Parents have authority over their children in God’s eyes along with a responsibility to protect them and guide them. Parents will be held accountable by God.
5. Numbers 30:8 — “But if, on the day that her husband comes to hear of it, he opposes her, then he makes void her vow that was on her, and the thoughtless utterance of her lips by which she bound herself. And the Lord will forgive her.” In a marriage, promises made to God are a joint decision — “The two shall become one.”
6. Proverbs 15:1, 18 — “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger…. A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention.” Christians should be masters at bringing peace into every situation, at being able to de-escalate conflict and to promote unity. Look at every conflict or potential conflict as an opportunity to demonstrate the love of Christ. Challenge yourself to be a peacemaker at all times and critique yourself with each event.
7. Proverbs 15:4 — “A gentle tongue is a tree of life.” Do your words refresh others and make them feel more alive?
8. Proverbs 15:7 — “The lips of the wise spread knowledge; not so the hearts of fools.” Are people smarter after talking with you?
9. Proverbs 15:8, 9, 29 — “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but the prayer of the upright is acceptable to him. The way of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord, but he loves him who pursues righteousness…. The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.” Your true worship is loving others. No amount of Sunday services can make up for an unloving heart and unloving behavior. Yes, God forgives the repentant person, but with genuine repentance comes a changed heart and changed behavior.
10. Proverbs 15:16 — “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” Life fulfillment comes from your relationship with God, not from your possessions or personal accomplishments.
11. Proverbs 15:16 – “Better is a little with the fear of the Lord than great treasure and trouble with it.” Be thankful for what God has given you, and be faithful with it. In fidelity, He will give you more.
12. Proverbs 15:18 — “The way of a sluggard is like a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a level highway.” Lazy people seek a life of ease, not realizing that they are actually making their lives much, much more difficult.
13. Proverbs 15:27 — “To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” Wisdom includes not just knowing what to say but also when and how to say it. A sense of timing is critical to relationships.
14. Acts 26:9 — “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” When Paul was still called Saul, he was a Pharisee among Pharisees. He had been trained by the most respected teachers and had committed his whole life to serving God faithfully. He diligently studied God’s word, worshipped day and night, and led efforts to keep the faith pure. It is safe to say that he was genuine in his convictions. In all his human efforts to be righteous, he got it wrong: “I myself was convinced that I ought to do many things in opposing the name of Jesus of Nazareth.” It was his personal encounter and subsequent relationship with Jesus that changed everything. Jesus opened the eyes of Paul’s heart to see the same word in a completely different way. Jesus once said to the Pharisees, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God (Mark 12:24)?” Paul (Saul) was well versed in the Bible but did not know the “power of God” which comes through rebirth through saving faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus said the Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God (John 3:3).” Many people know the words of the Bible inside and out but don’t know the power of God. Likewise, many born again Christians are stuck in spiritual infancy because they don’t know God’s word. God’s intent for his people is to know the Shepherd and the Shepherd’s voice.
15. Acts 26:12 – “I journeyed to Damascus with the authority and commission of the chief priests.” Paul was once commissioned under the authority of the chief priests, but now acted under the power and authority of Jesus Christ. Jesus reminds us in Matthew 28 that we are also commissioned under His authority to make disciples of all nations.
16. Acts 26:16-18 – “I have appeared to you for this purpose, to appoint you as a servant and witness to the things in which you have seen… to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.” God’s witnesses testify to what they have personally experienced with God, not simply what they have heard about. God’s revelations to you are not for you alone but that others might believe from your testimony. God’s purpose for your life is for you to be His instrument to bring others to Him.
17. Acts 26:19, 20 – “I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision, but declared… to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God.” Salvation requires repentance. To communicate anything else is to directly disobey God and to work against the Gospel.
18. Acts 26:22, 23 – “I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.” Paul, an Ambassador of Christ had only one message. You also are called to proclaim one message. How are you doing?
19. Acts 26:29 — “Whether short or long, I would to God that not only you but also all who hear me this day might become such as I am.” Paul’s life focus was bringing others to Jesus Christ. What is your life focus? God gave you your purpose: “Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18) Have you accepted your mission yet?
“Cross” Fit S-WOD (Spiritual Workout of the Day) – 15 March: Follow Paul’s example and proclaim Jesus to others today. (Acts 26)